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Taking the Reins

New report says public interest best served by slowing down bitumen production

EDMONTON – A new report released this morning by the U of A’s Parkland Institute says another out-of-control bitumen boom would not be in the best interests of Albertans, and that the Alberta government should take action today to bring the pace of development under control.

The report, titled Taking the Reins: The Case for Slowing Down Alberta’s Bitumen Production, documents some of the negative impacts that accompanied Alberta’s most recent bitumen boom, including extraordinarily high inflation, erosion of purchasing power, over-stressed public infrastructure and services, rampant homelessness, growing inequality, staff shortages, and a less diverse economy.  It also highlights the negative environmental impacts of this kind of development; impacts like increased CO2 emissions, higher levels of local air and water pollution, water shortages, and severe stress on important ecosystems.

“We are seeing unprecedented levels of production and investment in Alberta’s tar sands,” says Parkland researcher, and lead author of the report, David Campanella. “Why is the government continuing to encourage and promote unfettered development when the evidence and expert opinion both show that a bitumen boom is best avoided?”

The report also proposes a number of options that the government could employ to slow down the pace of production and maximize the public benefit of our resources:

  • Direct project selection, whereby the government would determine which projects are allowed to proceed based on environmental, employment, value-added, and royalty criteria;
  • Limit the number of construction permits and invite corporations to submit bids which would be judged on the criteria above;
  • Require oil corporations to bear the full costs of production, including environmental, infrastructure, and reclamation;
  • Move toward public interest ownership in the oil and gas sector to ensure a public interest mandate.

“It’s the government’s responsibility to manage the province’s resources in the public interest, and there are numerous mechanisms that could be used to accomplish this end,” stresses Parkland research director and report co-author Shannon Stunden Bower.  “It is irresponsible to continue allowing mostly foreign-owned oil corporations to decide how our resources are developed.”

The Parkland Institute is a non-partisan public policy research institute in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta.  The report Taking the Reins is available for download on the Parkland website.

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